The Transformation of the Miami Dolphins
Between free agency and the draft, the Miami Dolphins have significantly remade their roster, and the team that takes the field for the start of next season (whenever that might be) should be clearly improved over the 2019 version.
In fact, no team in the NFL has been as busy reshaping its roster as the Dolphins.
Based on transactions through Tuesday, the Dolphins had brought in 23 new players either via unrestricted free agency, trades or the draft. That represented the highest total in the NFL, three more than the second-place Minnesota Vikings.
The low number in the league was nine from the New Orleans Saints, and the league average was 13.9.
But whereas the Vikings' total is skewed by its league-high 15 picks in the recent draft, the Dolphins have had balance in the way they've brought in new players.
The total of newcomers includes 11 unrestricted free agents, 11 draft picks and one trade acquisition, running back Matt Breida from the 49ers.
The 11 UFAs include safety Kavon Frazier, who was signed Sunday.
He joined RB Jordan Howard, G/T Ereck Flowers, C/G Ted Karras, DE Shaq Lawson, DE Emmanuel Ogbah, LB Kyle Van Noy, LB Elandon Roberts, LB Kamu Grugier-Hill, CB Byron Jones and S Clayton Fejedelem.
The 11 draft picks are topped by first-round selections QB Tua Tagovailoa, T Austin Jackson and CB Noah Igbinoghene, along with T Robert Hunt, DT Raekwon Davis, S Brandon Jones, G Solomon Kindley, DE Jason Strowbridge, DE Curtis Weaver, LS Blake Ferguson, and RB/WR Malcolm Perry.
Out of the unrestricted free agents, it's no stretch to suggest at least six will be starters: Howard, Flowers, Karras, Lawson, Van Noy and Jones, while Roberts and Ogbah should be in the defensive rotation and Grugier-Hill and Fejedelem both should be key members of the special teams.
It's harder to project how the rookies fit in because of the developmental curve, but it's certainly conceivable to envision Jackson, Igbinoghene, Hunt and Davis as opening-day starters, and it would be foolish to dismiss the possibility of Tagovailoa starting at quarterback right away even if it's not likely, as we discussed in a previous story.
By the time the next season kicks off, it's entirely possibility about half, if not more, of the Dolphins starters will be players who weren't on the team in 2019.
That, of course, is not surprising considering the moves the Dolphins made last season when they reset the course of the franchise to create cap space and accumulate draft capital to build what they hope will be a consistent contender.
“For us — and Brian has always talked about it — it’s one day at a time," GM Chris Grier said, referencing a common refrain from Head Coach Brian Flores. "It’s building a process of building this team to get better every day. Expectations, people will have that and good or bad, and for us it’s just staying the course and doing a lot of the things that the coaching staff really believes and implements with the team.”
Beyond the unrestricted free agents and draft picks, the Dolphins also picked up 10 undrafted rookie free agents, and the hope is that one or two of them can become factors the way wide receiver Preston Williams and cornerback Nik Needham did.
But it's going to be a lot harder for a rookie free agent to make the Dolphins roster than it was last year because it appears, on paper at least, to be a much better team.
Of course, there's a lot left to be proven, which perhaps is why the Dolphins actually moved down a couple of spots from its post-Super Bowl position in the Sports Illustrated Power Rankings.
If the Dolphins end up not being able to top their 5-11 record of a year ago, it certainly won't be for lack of trying to improve their personnel.